"The Merchant of Venice": Critical Evaluation

Essay by steflanglandsB-, January 2006

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In this essay I intend to decide whether Shylock is a victim or villain, whether he is good or bad evil and twisted or just driven by revenge.

"The Merchant of Venice" is set in Elizabethan times, when Jews were hated and persecuted for their religion. Jewish people had to adapt. They lived in tight knit communities. They worked hard and became lawyers, doctors and successful business men. In turn this caused Christians to be jealous of their success and hate them more. As a result of this Shylock becomes bitter and twisted. However it is when his daughter runs is away with his enemy who is Christian, that he truly becomes evil, bloodthirsty and almost inhuman.

Shylock lives in Venice and, being Jewish was not allowed to have a decent job so to get by, he becomes a money lender. Christian Law states this is wrong and causes more ill feeling between Jews and Christians.

Shylock is not a millionaire but can afford to look after himself and his daughter, Jessica. They have a comfortable house, with servants.

Shylock is a shrewd businessman. He dislikes risk as shown in Act 3 scene 1 lines 3 and 5 and when Bassanio approaches him for a loan, he repeats the word "Well," showing that he stalls to give himself more time to time to reach a final decision. Shylock eventually agrees to lend Antonio the three thousand ducats he needs, but shows a warped sense of kindness when he does so. He tells Antonio that if he cannot pay it back within the month, then he must give Shylock a pound of flesh. He shows brains in doing this and Antonio shows naivety in agreeing to this. Shylock also proves his quick wittedness and business brain in...